Mastery approach

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/23 19:08:39

Educators from different places share their thoughts about Chinese educational issues

How to maintain students' mental and physical well-being while under intense pressure from exams and homework? What enlightenment can British- and Chinese-style schools impart for each other? And how can teachers and parents educate young children before they enter school?

Such educational topics were heatedly discussed during this year's ­Wellington College China Festival of Education.

The event was started by Wellington College in 2015, according to official information. This year, experts who came from the UK, the US and China gathered together at Wellington schools in Shanghai, Tianjin and Hangzhou to discuss important and inspiring education issues.

Pam Mundy, director of Pam Mundy Associates and director of International Early Years, gave a presentation on early childhood development. She pointed out that small children have their own ways of exploring and understanding the world, with playing being an important method for them to learn independently.

She therefore encouraged Chinese parents not to limit their child's horizons by forcing them into classes and preventing them from free play.

Third Culture Kids

Tanya Crossman, an author and international speaker, gave a presentation on Third Culture Kids, a term that refers to children raised somewhere other than their hometown.

"A Third Culture Kid is anyone who spends a significant portion of their childhood outside his or her passport country," she explained to the Global Times. "When a parent takes a job abroad, their children become TCK. Usually it takes three or more years living overseas for a child to begin identifying as a TCK."

The number of TCK, she said, has been growing quickly in the globalized world. "I worked with TCK in Beijing for nine years. Their parents had moved to China for a range of reasons. Some were diplomats, some worked for multinational companies or ran their own businesses, while others were teachers in local universities or international schools," she said.

The experience of growing up in between different cultures has many benefits as well as challenges to such youth.

According to Crossman, TCK generally can understand different social customs and values, but many also lack a sense of belonging rooted in one location or one culture.

Another common struggle for TCK relates to transience, Crossman said. "Many TCK either move frequently or watch a series of TCK peers come and go," she said.

"The weight of all these changes and transitions can be difficult to manage, and many TCK find the easiest way to cope is to suppress the difficult emotions of grief. This unresolved grief can present many difficulties," she noted.

In terms of how to help TCK cope, Crossman said, "One thing we can do is to ask about their stories, and really listen, seeking to understand their different perspective on the world. Crossman added it is also important not to criticize TCK for their mix of languages and cultural elements.

Difficulty with mathematics

James Beadle, a mathematics teacher at Wellington College International Shanghai, gave a presentation on difficulties in mathematics learning.

According to Beadle, there are nonmathematical factors, such as time pressure and unfamiliar or complicated languages, that tend to make the process of mathematics learning more difficult for youth. For instance, he suggested that the Chinese language is an easier medium than the English language for questions in mathematics, so mathematics is inherently more accessible for Chinese language learners.

Cooperation between China and the UK in mathematics education in recent years has lead to the British government introducing the Chinese "mastery approach" at more than 8,000 primary schools in Britain, with funding reaching 41 million euros ($47 million), according to media reports.

The British educational department also introduced Chinese mathematics textbooks and translated them into English to boost the UK's mathematics performance.

Beadle told the Global Times that there are several things that could be learned from the teaching of mathematics in China. He also pointed out that Chinese mathematics curricula tends to focus on one concept in each lesson in great depth. British traditional curricula covers multiple topics within a year, so ­students move on more quickly, ­jumping from one topic to another, he said.

As for the Chinese practice of drill work, Beadle also shared his opinions with the Global Times, saying that mathematics teachers in many Chinese schools tend to teach a huge number of students.

With so many students in a classroom, it is hard to know each student's personal mastery level, which is the reason why local teachers give their students so much homework, according to Beadle. "Certainly there is nothing wrong with the drill exercises. But if a student is getting 100 percent on 20 questions in a row, you should definitely start to increase the difficulty level of the exercises," he added.

Pam Mundy gives a presentation on early childhood development Friday. Photo: Courtesy of Wellington College China


A speaker delivers a lecture to the audience Friday. Photo: Courtesy of Wellington College China



blog comments powered by Disqus